Like a ragdoll

One of the great things about this little town we live in is the annual fair. The roads around the downtown area get closed off and the carnival rides get wheeled in. Deep fried Twinkies, elephant ears, rides I’ll never ride and games I’ll never play. Along with all the typical awesomeness of having a FREE fair, is the 4H aspect. Over at the fairgrounds are multiple barns, full of horses, cows, sheep, rabbits, chickens, pigs and many other breeds.

Of course, this is where Tyler wanted to be. He petted horse after horse after donkey after mule and never tired of it. In the pig pens, he had to place his hand on darn near every single pig in there. He pet many animals and loved it. As we walked from barn to barn we mentioned the animals that were coming up. We neared the final barn and asked Tyler if he was ready to see the cows.

“Ohhhh yes,” he replied, happily skipping/running along.

I don’t know the different breeds of cows, so I don’t know if we walked into a dairy barn or some other “cow barn”. All the cows were standing, facing away from us. So, we had a beautiful view of many, many cow butts. Tyler continued ahead of Sarah and I, looking up in awe of the huge creatures. I walked ahead of Sarah to catch up with Tyler. She had just moments ago told him to be careful around the animals. I took another step closer, slightly blocking Sarah’s view, as Tyler suddenly turned and placed his hand on a cow’s leg.

They saw that when tragedy strikes, everything slows down.

In less than one full second, I watched the cow’s hoof kick out and strike Tyler in his chest. In that same one second, I watched Tyler get thrown six foot backwards. I watched his head and legs jolt forward as his body propelled back.

It’s amazing, the details you notice in only one second. Like the fact that the cow’s hoof had already been returned to its original position while Tyler was still in the air.

His head suddenly snapped back when his body slammed into a stack of hay. I heard the metallic clang as his neck and skull hit the metal pail on the ground.

And then I went blind. I distinctly remember running to Tyler, but my brain couldn’t process the visuals. I was blind to the world, but seeing everything. I knew that he would be unconscious. I just didn’t know how bad it would be.

All in one eternal second.

I picked him up, but still my brain either wouldn’t or couldn’t allow me to see what was happening. A thought entered my head that I shouldn’t touch or move Tyler, yet I still lifted him to me, embracing him.

I heard him draw a deep breath, then begin screaming. Unable to move, I stood there and held him, asking if he was ok. In another sobbing scream, he yelled “yeeeeeeeeeeah,” in response. I felt Sarah next to me, putting her arm around Tyler while trying to push me a little further away from the cow. I whispered “I’m sorry” into Tyler’s ear.

He screamed again.

Sarah asked if she could look at him to see if he was hurt. He tightened his arms around my neck and said no. We all stood there for a couple minutes. When Tyler’s hitching sobs slowed, I stood him on a wooden chest nearby, so we could look at him. The muddy hoof-print on his sweatshirt showed us where to start. There was no mark. He did have a scrape under his eye, which we can’t explain. I picked him up again and held him tight, kissing his head over and over again. As we walked, Sarah found the cure to Tyler’s ailment.

Whispering in his ear, she asked, “Ty, do you want some cotton candy?”

I spent the next fifteen minutes, eating pink and blue cotton candy with Sarah and Tyler. The entire time, I wondered how it was possible that I saw what I saw and my son has little more than a scrape on his cheek that he says “hurt a liddle bit.” I watched him SHOVEL handfuls of cotton candy in his mouth, and “ooh” and “ahh” with Sarah at some horses walking by, befuddled that we weren’t presently rushing to the hospital with a limp and unconscious child.

Later, at home, Tyler asked, “Daddy, why a cow kick me?”

“Well, Tyler, you know how when we see a fly near our food and we tell it to go away and wave our arms at it?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Well, when you touched the cow’s leg, it tickled him a little bit. He didn’t know you were a boy because he couldn’t see you. The cow thought you were a fly and tried to kick you away. He didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“My cheek ouchie. Why cow hurt me?”

“Why did I just tell you, buddy?”

“Cow think I a fly.”

Idea to paper to product

Doesn’t it always seem that there’s just not enough storage in any house? We could move into a house that was nothing but closets and shelves, and we’d wish there were closets inside the closets. I’ve added shelves to the laundry room, both bedroom closets, and the basement. I’ve put up shelving in the garage. I added shelves to our back entry-way (I think Sarah calls it a mud room). I installed lots of shelves in the storage room under the stairs that lead to the second floor. Beyond all this, we still need more storage space. There’s always been one room I dare not touch. The kitchen. See, all the places I put all that shelving… it didn’t matter. Drill some holes, put up some shelves, thump your chest, watch football. The kitchen, though, is a high traffic area. That place needs to stay pretty in order to keep the wife happy and, in turn, keep the house happy. One particular wall in the kitchen has been an eyesore of wasted space since the day we moved in.

Not any longer. After casually mentioning to Sarah that it’d be nice to have a pantry on that particular wall, she enthusiastically agreed and asked if I could perform such a task. Knowing that I was absolutely not capable of such a project, I told her that I was absolutely capable of the project. Her only stipulation was that the design and color needed to match the cabinets that were already in the kitchen. I started by moving the light switches to a different wall, and adding a couple electrical outlets in their place. I didn’t take any pictures of that project, because it was fairly straightforward, and I was eager to finish it before Sarah came home that evening.

Then, it was time to take measurements. I was dismayed to find out that not only were our floors not level, but the walls were also not “level” either. The project was no longer as simple (a term I already used loosely for the work involved) as building a box with doors. Now, each piece would need to be measured and cut separately. The unit would need to be assembled directly in the space, instead of simply (again, a loose form of the term) building it in an open space and moving it into position.

The measuring and planning process looked like this:

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I regretted agreeing to this…

Anyway, I forgot to take a before picture, so I’ll give you the first picture I took. Using painters tape, I taped off the area that the pantry would be installed in.

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Since the house is over a hundred years old – built in 1906, I believe – the measurements between the studs was anything but consistent. The walls are plaster, so using a stud finder was a waste of time. Instead, I tied a piece of dental floss to a magnet and swung it along the wall. When the magnet stuck, I marked the newly found screw with a piece of tape. That screw would have been driven into a stud, so I also knew where the studs were, which I marked on the tape.

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Sarah then painted inside the tape with white paint, and I installed some shelf tracks.

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I temporarily put some shelves in, so I could measure the spacing necessary before moving on.

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After that, I painted the shelves, cut and stained the pantry frame and spacers, and put the trash can in place.

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That was the end of the easy part. The doors have been something that I had been thinking about for a very long time. My father-in-law was gracious enough to let me use his router on an extended loan. Using some sheet-aluminum, I made a make-shift router table and used that to cut the edges around the border of the doors. I then used my table saw to cut a groove on the inside edges of the wood. After putting the door frame together and cutting the panel board to fit, I slid it into the frame, along the grooves. All four doors had to be cut to varying widths and height, due to the non-levelness of our home, so this part was crucial to get correct the first time.

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I also added crown-molding to the top, and a kick-board to the bottom.

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Next came the other hard part of the project. The trash can needed to be sealed from the rest of the unit. The last thing I wanted was to smell garbage when I opened the doors. Interior panels, trim, Killz paint, and caulk did that. I cut and assembled a door, mounted it to some drawer glides and a platform. I then added hinges to the door, and a couple powerful magnets. As a result, the trash door can be opened on the hinges, or rolled out like a drawer, or both.

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To think, four pages of chicken scratch turned into this:

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Not bad for my first major woodworking project. Plus Sarah is very happy, and that’s really all that matters, right?

Spaceman

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The radio chatter sent a chilling message. Invasion. Chaos. Extinction. I flipped the radio to the secure comm frequency and listened. All combat-ready personnel were being summoned to Sector 7 for an emergency briefing. One look at my partner told me we weren’t going to be there. Just as well, I thought. It’d be nothing more than a pep rally. Some patriotic speech about freedom, life, liberty, and their continued pursuit of their inflated paychecks, to get our blood boiling and adrenaline flowing. The orders would be the same, though. Gear up and protect this rock we call home. The resistance had somehow penetrated the outer forces that we all foolishly believed were impenetrable, and now it was up to us grunts to stop, or maybe only slow down, the attack. There were two things that the resistance didn’t prepare for. The Space Rangers, and our taste for blood!

“Tyler! Help me with my wings!”

Tyler rushed over and helped lift the carbon-fiber, TJ-0628 Flight Enhancement unit onto my shoulders. In a flash, he secured it to the anchor points on my space ranger armor. He verbalized each step, something we were trained to do years ago, to prevent any detachments during flight. “Buckle buckle buckle buckle.”

“Thanks, bud! Sounds about right,” I cried over the sound of machine gun rattle. “Where are your wings at?”

“Over dare,” he shouted. In a burst of speed, he retrieved the TJ-0628.

Moments later, the two remaining members of the Space Rangers were ready for war. In a room that typically housed hundreds of biologically modified men, capable of superhuman strength and speed, only two men stood. We were the last. Earth’s final hope. But we were also the best.

“To infitty… n bond!”

Space Ranger Tyler rocketed into the clouds, and I was quick to follow. With uncanny precision, he dived into a valley.

I keyed the mic on the secure communications radio. “Tyler, where are you going?”

“I find a bad guy, over here!”

“Ok, let me come help you,” I replied. But it was too late. I barely had a chance to circle back when I spotted him through my visor. He was already headed towards the prison – which looked surprisingly like a dog’s crate.

I caught up and pressed a code onto the keypad. The prison door swung open. Tyler threw the bad guy in and the door clanged shut. He grunted, “You tay in dare, bad guy!”

“Yeah,” I snarled. “You stay in there, you bad guy!”

The hours turned into days. Progress was being made, and the bad guys were quickly filling the cells. The sound of the prison door banging closed over and over again was satisfying. And each time the door locked, Tyler rocketed away, looking for his next capture. His mission was clear and time was against us. Collect the bad guys, collect the bounty, and protect humanity. I turned to take Tyler’s six and heard a low growl in the shadows. I wheeled around and readied my weapon, but it was too late. In an instant, I was paralyzed in the bone crushing grip of something big. Something very big. Tyler was merely a blip on my visor and I had no hope of freeing myself. Still, the grip tightened, and simply drawing air into my lungs became strained. I activated the comm channel and allowed the fear to come through in my voice.

“Tyler, Tyler, help me! I’m caught. A bad guy has me!”

With no delay, Tyler’s flight path arced back towards my position, and his voice boomed in my helmet. “I get ‘im! I catch a bad guy!”

He zipped past me, out of my sight. A moment later, I was pulled backward. Then, the pressure weighing on and around my body relaxed. And then, it disappeared entirely. The HUD overlay on my visor blipped out and a soothing, computerized voice surrounded me. “Warning. Space suit integrity compromised. Systems check initiated. Ten seconds remaining.”

Any movements beyond rolling my eyes or sticking my tongue out were a virtual impossibility with the approximate weight of a pickup truck on my shoulders. Still, this was a walk in the park compared to the 45 seconds it took for the predecessor of the TJ-0628 armor to recalibrate its biometric sensors and reboot its core processes. The voice never returned to inform me that the checks were complete, but the weight suddenly lifting from my shoulders told me I’d either been lifted in the air by a massive force, or the servos and hydraulics in the suit were operational again. I spun around to see Tyler closing the prison gate.

“Thanks, Tyler. That bad guy really had me!”

“Yeah.”

“It looks like we’ve caught all the bad guys. Thanks for your help buddy. Let’s go back and take these wings off.”

Tyler’s eyes shifted to look over my shoulders. “I see anudder un! I go get him!”

I turned to follow his flight path, but couldn’t see the bad guy. “Where is he, Tyler? I don’t see him.”

Tyler dived, grabbed something, and swooped back into the air. How he was able to see such a well-hidden baddie was beyond me. “Good job, Tyler! I didn’t even see him!”

“I got him. I’m a eat him in my belly,” he said. A moment later, he put the bad guy in his mouth. “Om nom nom nom NOM!”

And with that, our mission was complete. We landed and assisted each other with the removal of our gear and armor. The supreme high commander approached us and asked, “Did you boys have fun?”

Tyler spoke for both of us, and said, “Yes Mommy!”

Tyler has an imagination, and it truly amazes me…

A conversation about love

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The scene: Dinner is almost ready. I’ve been in the camper for the last few hours, running some DC wiring and outlets. The new-to-us camper is going out on its inaugural camping trip in seven days, so I wanted to finish up the wiring and some other final preparations. In the span of time between me completing my project and dinner being ready, I asked Tyler if he’d like to come to the camper to see his very own, special fan. Tyler is very fond of the camper, and was more than eager to see something new in there, especially if it involves him. Tyler and I got comfortable on his end of the camper and talked about camping and somehow started talking about police cars.

A few moments later, Sarah joined us. She lay on the bed with us in the camper. Tyler snuggled with both of us and gave us both “snuggle kisses”. He’s been more affectionate lately and is giving us more and more unsolicited “I love you” comments. At this exact moment in time, life is very, very good.

Me: “Tyler! Who do you love?”

Tyler: “Ummm… Aunt JiJi.”

Me: “WHAT?!”

Sarah: *chuckling* “And who else, Tyler?”

Tyler: “Mommy!”

Sarah: “And?”

Tyler: “Lilah” (Our dog, Delilah.)

Sarah: “And?”

Tyler: “Luci-dog.” (Luci is a dog we are caring for while our friends are out of town.)

And where did I rank? After Aunt Acey and Uncle Darren. As a matter of fact, Tyler didn’t acknowledge his love for me until Sarah put the idea in the brat’s little head.

Sarah: “What about daddy?”

Tyler: “And daddy.”